In a country obsessed with beef, a new generation of renowned butchers and restaurants is redefining what makes a great American steak city.
After recent headlines about food safety and “pink slime” in ground meat, consumers are paying even more attention to where their meat comes from, whether they're grilling at home or eating in a steak house. In Chicago, where the now-closed Union Stockyards were the thriving center of the American meatpacking industry for the first half of the 20th century, former chef Rob Levitt is earning raves for opening Butcher & Larder, the city’s first shop dedicated to butchering locally sourced whole animals.
Chefs have long stressed the importance of getting to know farmers and suppliers in order to guarantee the best quality products. In several Texas cities like Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, many chefs are taking butchering into their own hands. At Chris Shepherd’s brand new Houston restaurant, Underbelly, there’s a full-scale butcher room where whole animals are broken down and each part is used on the menu.
The nation’s financial capital may be the country's unofficial steak house capital. New York City has more than 140 restaurants specializing in steak, from dry-aged porterhouses at the iconic Peter Luger in Brooklyn to the côte de boeuf for two at Keith McNally’s chic Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village. Here, especially, local butchers garner cult followings, like Pat LaFreida, Lobel’s, DeBragga and Master Purveyors, with their names called out on menus throughout the city.
San Francisco has had a surge of chef-butchers and butcher shops that focus on humanely and locally raised meat. Today Ryan Farr of 4505 Butchers is one of the most sought-after butchering instructors in the city. Although many of the city’s fine dining spots emphasize locally raised and grass-fed beef, traditional steak houses are still popular. Since 1949, House of Prime Rib’s servers have been dramatically carving portions of well-marbled meat tableside from stainless steel serving carts.
Atlanta chefs Anne Quatrano and Cliff Harrison run an empire of restaurants and shops dedicated to using local, organic ingredients and serving nose-to-tail cuisine. Located in a former meatpacking plant, their restaurant Abbattoir (French for “slaughterhouse”) utilizes every part of the cow on its menu: In addition to rib eye and hanger steak, they serve roasted marrow bones, sweetbreads and warm beef jerky. Their culinary shop Star Provisions has an on-site chef-butcher who hand-cuts meat and specializes in aging meat.
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